Fresh-fished-fish, oysters-on-tap, rock bottom rates… sound like Essex?

Known for its old ladies and 'ave-a-go youths, Essex isn't a place I identify as a place for culinary delights


Sam Trainor-Buckingham

Known for its old ladies and ‘ave-a-go youths, Essex isn’t a place I identify as a place for culinary delights. But the bits and pieces I’d read on the food, particularly the fish, at Mersea Island (just off the coast of Essex) had got my taste buds tingling. So a short train journey from London and I was trundling across the only road connecting mainland Britain and the Island.

We set up camp in the East of the Island, ‘caravan city’ is probably a fair description, and set off due West around the cost of the Island. A short trip past the tattoo-vested-hard-men of East and we were up there with the higher end of Chavdom. Cravats and fitted coats sum up this side of the Island, and I have to say – it was great. Beautiful long harbours, fantastic pubs with great beer gardens (check out the Victory inn) and a layered skyline to die for. And the food, my god, the food.

Shellfish and fish, fresh from the sea and cooked how you like it, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the Mediterranean. The two heroes of the Island, around which – if you’re a food junkie like me – every trip to Mersea should be organised, are ‘The Shed’ and ‘The Oyster Bar’, both on Coast Road.

The Shed

This place is fantastic, half fishmongers – half sit in café, and if you want a sign of quality – there’s queues around the block from 11.30am onwards. As we were staying on the Island we got there for 11 – and people were already shamelessly cracking bottles of bubbly and shucking down freshly plucked oysters. Cold seafood platter is the dish of the day here, but we mixed it up with garlic, bread crumb mussels (in their shell) and lightly fried garlic tiger prawns, oh and lets not forget a dozen of the infamous Colchester oysters. Bring bread, butter and wine – and yes, it’s cheap. What a place.

The Oyster Bar

More of an evening vibe here and well worth spending an evening to sample all the freshfish delights. Time to let the food do the talking.. We had a 1/2 pint of prawns, 12 oysters, half a lobster & chips, cod & chips, a bottle of white wine and a dressed crab to have back at the campsite (with the bottle of wine waiting for us.)

Total Cost: £42. I’ll repeat that, Total Cost: £42.

Cod fished from the sea that morning, oysters plucked from the seabed that day…

Is it me, or will I be seeing you there next Saturday?

Other Attractions

Wind surfing, kiaking, yachting, sailing and fishing. Fantastic.

Where To Stay

Inside: Victory Inn is a great place, private veranda’s overlooking the harbour – and don’t forget about the beer garden. Good for kids.

Outside: We stayed at Fen Farm on the East side of Island, nice fields – and family orientated.

How To Get There

Trains from London Liverpool Street to Colchester leave around every 30 minutes and take about 50 minutes. You can get the bus to Mersea Island from the bus station or get a cab for around £12. Cabs within Mersea Island cost £6 for anywhere on the Island.

It’s roughly a 2 hour journey by car along the A12.

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